Another Howard Days has come and gone, and with it the euphoric high that can only come with 72 plus hours of full immersion in something that you have a true passion for, alongside dozens of others who share your passion and are some of the few people that can truly understand it. This was only my third Howard Days and so I don’t have the larger perspective that many others do, but for me this year’s Howard Days was my favorite. It didn’t have the giddy excitement of my first year or movie-infused madness of last year—but those weren’t necessarily bad things. It was more subdued perhaps, but it also created more opportunities to just hang out with friends new and old and geek out with folks who “get it.”
Actually making it to Cross Plains this year was more challenging than usual due some severely nasty weather that had flights delayed or cancelled. Al Harron and the Scottish Invasion were stuck in the airport for hours and Bill “Indy” Cavalier and his wife Cheryl didn’t get into to town until 4:00 in the morning Friday. Several Howard Days regulars, including Damon Sasser, Frank Coffman, and Ryan Flessing, were absent this year for various reasons and were sorely missed. For me the trip to Howard Days was unusual as well, as I am actually in the middle of a three-week long family vacation as I write this. My wife, the kids, and I had driven from Florida to Maine (yes, driven!) and had rented a lake cabin. So for me Howard Days was a vacation from my vacation as I flew down to Texas from Maine, then back to Maine just in time to drive back down to Florida. Sheesh!
Of course the unofficial kick-off for Howard Days is Thursday night with dinner at Humphrey Pete’s. I got in on Thursday afternoon just in time to hitch a ride to Brownwood with Paul Sammon, Russell Andrew, and Al. I got to talk with (and listen to) Paul more this year than in the past and I have to say that he is one of the most knowledgeable and interesting people in Howard fandom. Paul has had many incredible experiences and has a wonderful outlook and perspective on life in general. I could listen to his stories and anecdotes forever. Al of course is my old TC blog comrade and it’s always great to see him as well as his entourage, the Wyrd sisters. There were more familiar faces when we arrived at Humphrey Pete’s of course: Rob Roehm, Dennis McHaney, Barbara Barrett, Ed Chazcyk, Jim Barron, and several others. Mark Finn showed up not long after we did, as well as Jay Zetterberg from Paradox. I believe Keith West and Scott Valeri were there as well, but I didn’t get a chance to speak with them until later.
After dinner we returned to the pavilion, where Rusty Burke was waiting with the guest of honor Charles Hoffman. I was thrilled to meet Chuck and was fortunate enough to room with him this year, which gave me more an opportunity to pick his brain and hear his amazing stories about his experiences in fandom. It was a true pleasure to meet him and visit with him and I very much hope he will make it back for future Howard Days. Other regulars began to show up at the pavilion too, including Dave Hardy, Chris Gruber, Todd Woods, and Tim Arney. This was the first time I got meet Tim and he was a lot of fun and very knowledgeable. The lovely Aurelia also returned to Howard Days (no doubt due to Al’s charming presence rather than the rest of us troglodytes).
Perhaps the most special visitors of all were there as well: Lou Ann Lord and her family. This was, of course, the first Howard Days after Glenn Lord’s passing and that reality was omnipresent throughout the weekend. I expect that this weekend was Lou Ann’s farewell to Howard fandom, and I believe that she will be moving on knowing just how important Glenn was to all of us and to all we do. None of this would have been possible without Glenn and nothing Glenn ever did would have been possible without the patience and support of Lou Ann.
Friday morning kicked off the first official activities of the weekend, including a bus tour of Cross Plains led by Rusty. Fans and visitors were just beginning to show up as I wandered over to the pavilion fueled by multiple cups of coffee and a deliciously greasy breakfast from Jean’s Feed Barn. Indy was there, having safely arrived the day before and other regulars soon began showing up including Paul Herman, Gary Romero, Ben Friberg, Joe Crawford, Alfred Bonnabel, as well as Chris Fulbright and Angie Hawkes with family in tow. I made my way through the Howard House only to discover a significant new addition: Robert’s own books from Howard Payne University. Apparently, HPU has donated the remainder of the Howard library to the museum and that was a wonderful surprise. Many of them are inscribed to Howard (and in one case by Howard) and being able to go through these volumes looking for things like highlighting or notes in the margin will be a scholar’s dream.
Another treat waited at the Cross Plains library as all of the typescripts in their collection were on display. It was wonderful to see things like a typescript with Steve Costigan whited-out and Dennis Dorgan typed over it. There is nothing quite like the experience of seeing these cultural artifacts with your own eyes.
The first panel was a dedication to Glenn Lord and Paul, Barbara, and Rusty did a wonderful job of celebrating Glenn’s life and work. It was incredibly moving, but never depressing, as it was truly a celebration of a wonderful life. It was hard not to tear up when Lou Ann spoke though and I thought it was truly a magnificent thing that she had come here to share with us fans her memories and experiences of her life’s companion.